Monday was a rough day in some ways, a day of trying to settle back into routine after the weekend, a day of bracing for the rest of the week. Always, I feel pressured to dive into housework, to make necessary phone calls, to run errands, to be busy. Pressure is not my friend. So bad was the buildup that when I turned off the car's ignition after driving the girls to school and returning home, I left my purse on the front seat and set out for the fields. If the most important things don't get done first, nothing else will fall into place. The challenge is remembering and believing in what's really most important. For days I'd been putting off taking a walk, knowing I needed to, dreading the silence that comes, the silence I love, need and dread, the silence in which I most often hear my own heart and that of my Father.
I had to duck under a couple of electric fence strands to find a place to cross the creek; rain had filled its waters to rushing, and the stepping stones and narrow places at which I normally cross were flooding. I finally found a spot under a wild plum tree further downstream than usual, then kept on along the bank, following the water's flow. The sound of running water is infinitely soothing, and I rather desperately needed soothing that day, so over tree roots and under wire strands I continued scrambling, until I came to the place where the creeks from the north and south sides of the house join. There I picked my way to the middle, to the very point of their confluence, and stood. I probably cried. I do sometimes, when the burblings and rushings of the water wash away my defenses along with the debris of old leaves and dead grass, pushing clear the center.
I don't know how long I stood on the point of the gravel bar, the two converging streams at my back, facing the stronger single current of their joining. Part of the time I watched the empty branches of the sycamores in their stark beauty; part of the time I closed my eyes and let myself be drenched in sound. Time meant nothing. My feet were damp and chilled from the frost that had crunched underfoot on my walk there. My coat wasn't heavy enough. I was cold, but more from the inside than the outside. Then a branch snapped closely behind me.
The coyote must not have seen me until I'd begun to turn. His body was still moving toward me, even as he turned his head and began doubling back in a smooth, unhurried motion. He was close--about eight feet away. I could see the individual hairs in his coat, how thick and shining they were, their tips touched with black, how they turned almost gold along their lengths as he padded through a shaft of sunlight, then turned and trotted once more in the direction he'd originally been heading, more distance between himself and me, this time. Not once had he looked at me. Not once did I take my eyes from his nonchalantly trotting body until the underbrush rose so thickly between us that I couldn't follow his path any longer.
I came up from the creek bed and into the field feeling stunned, like a fish might feel if it were thrown out of water onto sun-drenched gravel and suddenly found it could breath air after all. I half-stumbled home, discombobulated in wonder and joy, in the dulled memory of pain and in longing, and crossed the creek in a single leap at the regular place, flooded stepping stones or no.
Something's changed. Not a big something, but something, nonetheless. There is a stillness in me--for a while, at least--and etched branches against the sky, and water pouring over stone, and living light.